WASHINGTON — The “true hero” Secret Service agent who helped save the life of U.S. president Ronald Reagan during a 1981 assassination attempt has died at age 85.
Jerry Parr sprang into action to shove the president into a waiting limousine in the frantic moments after gunshots were fired outside the Washington Hilton Hotel on March 30, 1981.
As they sped away, Special Agent Parr discovered Reagan had been injured and redirected the bullet-proof car to a nearby hospital.
Recounting the incident later, Parr said he thought he had injured one of Reagan’s ribs when he fell on top of the president in the race to get him into the limousine, only learning at the hospital that the president had been shot.
First lady Nancy Reagan credited those quick decisions with saving the president’s life.
Reacting to Parr’s death late Friday, Nancy Reagan said he was “one of my true heroes.”
“Without Jerry looking out for Ronnie on March 30, 1981, I would have certainly lost my best friend and roommate to an assassin’s bullet,” she said in a statement widely cited in U.S. media on Saturday.
“Jerry was not only one of the finest Secret Service agents to ever serve this country, but one of the most decent human beings I’ve ever known.
“He was humble but strong, reserved but confident, and blessed with a great sense of humor. It is no wonder that he and my husband got along so well.”
Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy called Parr “a remarkable leader and true friend.”
“Those of us who were blessed to know Jerry Parr will forever be able to lean on the lessons of integrity, character and compassion that Jerry displayed at all times,” he said in a statement.
“He was a gentleman to everyone he met and yet had the courage to act decisively when president Reagan and this country needed him most.”
Parr’s quick thinking on that dramatic day in 1981 “not only saved the life of president Reagan, but Jerry’s actions preserved the institution of the office of the presidency,” Clancy added.
Parr died of congestive heart failure at a hospice near Washington where he lived, according to The Washington Post.
Parr became a minister after he retired from the Secret Service in 1985, the newspaper said.
Among his surviving family members is his wife Carolyn.